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Iran Nuclear Tensions Key Topic at UN Assembly

  • Scott Bobb

Secretary General of the U.N. Ban Ki-moon (r) meets with President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at United Nations Headquarters, Sept. 23, 2012.

Secretary General of the U.N. Ban Ki-moon (r) meets with President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at United Nations Headquarters, Sept. 23, 2012.

A key topic at this week's session of the United Nations General Assembly is Iran's alleged development of nuclear weapons and the threat by Israel and the United States to use military force to stop it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet Sunday that he would warn the U.N. General Assembly that an Iran armed with nuclear weapons would be a global threat.

He says he will argue that what he calls the most dangerous state in the world cannot be armed with the most dangerous weapons in the world.

Netanyahu is due to address the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday, one day after Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to speak to the world body.

Iran says it is developing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes only. Israel and several Western governments disagree. The United Nations Security Council along with the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Iran.

But Netanyahu has called on the international community to set what he calls clear "red lines" for Iran's nuclear program which, if overstepped, could lead to military action.

Ahmadinejad on Monday slammed Western powers, saying their campaign against Iran's nuclear program was "sacrilege" against Islam. He spoke in New York at a U.N. debate on the rule of law and said the United States, Britain and France "violate the basic rights and freedoms of other nations."

In recent days, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Major-General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said any attacks against Iran could lead to a global conflict.

He says he does not think anything would remain of Israel considering its small size and its vulnerability.

International media report that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, something the Israeli government neither confirms nor denies.

Israeli political columnist Ativa Eldar says this reported capability is one of the main reasons for Iran's suspected nuclear weapons effort. And he says attacking Iran would likely worsen the situation.

"If Israel strikes Iran it will not take more than two to three years before they will be in a position to not only have the (nuclear) capability but have a very good excuse and motivation to balance their strategic capabilities, which is to have the nuclear bomb as long as Israel will have it," Eldar said.

Netanyahu says Israel reserves the right to act unilaterally if its allies do not back it.

But Eldar does not believe Israel would attack Iran before the U.S. elections in November because Israeli leaders would not want to be seen as interfering in America's internal politics.

Some analysts say Israel will not attack Iran unilaterally because there is no domestic consensus on it.

Opinion polls show that many Israelis are worried about the possible threat from a nuclear-armed Iran, but they also worry about the repercussions of an attack on Iran.

Professor Danny Rubenstein of Ben Gurion University says that Israel is due to hold national elections next year and Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak may be preparing for this contest.

"There is a real need for us to get rid of the threat of the Iranian nuclear project but there are some other reasons beyond this and one of them is (that) Netanyahu and Ehud Barak wish to do it themselves and have the credit of being the hero," said Rubenstein.

The Israeli and U.S. governments agree that Iran must be prevented from developing nuclear weapons, but the two differ on the time frame for any possible preemptive strike.

Eldar says a military attack could jeopardize (threaten) the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The objective of the N.P.T., which has been signed by 190 parties, is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and promote nuclear disarmament worldwide.

"Israel never signed the N.P.T. Iran did," said Eldar. "I recently met in a conference a number of Iranian scholars who made it very clear that this kind of imbalance, this kind of what they call double standard, cannot be preserved forever."

Senior Iranian leaders have said if attacked, Iran might leave the Treaty. Israel and Western government argue that one of the main reasons for stopping any Iranian nuclear weapons program is to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

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